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Saturday 28 May 2011

Laurie Anderson Mused On Memory & Then Broke New Ground In Sound @ Brighton Festival

The following is a distillation and blend of a performance by Laurie Anderson (Delusion, 25th May), and an interview given the night before on the same stage to a small audience.

Delusion is the mist on the hills. It is a beauty in constant motion, which you may not touch. It is there, but it is not there. It is always, always, moving - revealing and covering up what lies behind, sometimes opaque, sometimes translucent. It is a million tiny droplets, ideas, memories, meetings, things that have been read, things that are now forgotten, people who have gone.

Delusion is also the sea mist rolling in and then suddenly gone, back into the waters or burnt up by the searing sun.

In her interview the night before the performance, Laurie Anderson talks about memory as something that changes each time we remember it, talk about it or recollect it. For, she argues, all memory takes on something of the time in which it is remembered. So it is added to, yet perhaps something is lost.

Maybe things are just altered forever.

I can remember O Superman when I was just 14 years-old - "Here come the planessssss, American planes, made in America, smoking or Non Smoking?"



Those lines still terrify me now. At the same time as you hear the air-hostess in your mind you also saw the napalm over Vietnam, the carpet bombing, sticks of bombs falling out across the jungle. The ordinary and the terrible, the funny and the serious, does anyone in modern art do it better?

I have remembered it many times, but I will never know how much memory has developed with remembering.

Delusion, she tells us, is a cousin of Homeland her most recent studio album and her first in something like a decade. Homeland is largely about the USA. It contains a track called Another day in America."

It is also about a 'story about a story'. After a childhood diving accident Laurie was put into hospital on a mixed childrenss ward with many sick and dying children. The volunteer readers, despite the fact that she was twelve, read her small children's books like The Grey Rabbit, while she had been reading authors like Dickens and Dostoyevsky.

The lines "the best of times .. the worst of times" appear in Another Day in America.

She describes a story in Delusion as a mix between the "Odyssey" and "The Idiot."

In interview she talks the house down, on stage she chooses her words and her pauses very, very, carefully, like words in a poem. She is both funny and incisive using either method.

There is sense of loss in Delusion; The loss of America, the loss of a mother, and the loss of identity that stems from these events. 'Who am I?' she seems to say, or perhaps, 'who are we?'



Her mother lay on her deathbed talking to everyone, and sometimes she talked to the animals in her mind that had gathered on her ceiling.

The beauty of Delusion is the mix of ideas. Spoken words and abstraction mixed with song and music. There is something very primal about all this, it breaks new ground, and yet it makes me think of Pindar, or Homer, or Aeschylus the first time they were heard.

Homer mostly, as he was an oral poet too, his work was at its greatest in performance, changing and adapting to the world.

Like the Greeks she sees beauty and tragedy.

The Catholic priest who walks a hundred-block odyssey, home from the restaurant, in the snow to his lodgings brings a view of New York as a place of pilgrimage to Laurie Anderson.

America is a war economy engaged in an unstoppable thing, she believes.

A member of the audience asked her about how hard it is to become an artist. About how others may not agree with your choice, or may not understand it.

"The traps you set for yourself," she said, "are the ones that will most limit your life."

I have already begun to dismantle mine.

Laurie Anderson's Delusion is a great example of near perfection in art, it is everything we should strive to achieve, and everything we should strive to see and hear.


The Brighton Festival continues until Sunday 29th May. See www.brightonfestival.org for more info.


by: Howard Young (Arts Editor)




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